Olive oil: a benefit to pet health, too?
Does this key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet for humans translate to pets?
Olive oil, and especially extra virgin olive oil, is all the rage on cooking shows and at finer dining establishments these days. It seems that good news regarding the benefits of olive oil for our health and wellness emerges almost daily. So it stands to reason that people would want to explore this ingredient for use in pet diets. In turn, several petfood companies have gladly obliged.
To the seasoned veterans of the petfood aisle, this may seem like a marketing gimmick whose sole intent is to leverage the halo effect from all the good press regarding olive oil’s benefits to human health. However, lest we be too quick to disparage this ingredient, there may just be a meaningful reason to consider olive oil in a pet’s diet.
The use of olive oil in human nutrition is most associated with the so-called Mediterranean diet, where fish and vegetable consumption is complemented by 25-50 mL per day of extra virgin olive oil. In this program, most of the health benefits associated with olive oil relate to its preventive effects on coronary artery disease. This is thought to be a function of the high monounsaturated fatty acid (principally oleic acid) content.
The relationship between high oleic acid oils and coronary artery disease is not a major nutrition/health concern for the dog or cat. So, if olive oil is to be beneficial for the pet beyond simply providing fat calories, there would need to be another justification for its use.